The bidding war is one

Multiple offers making comeback in some areas, including the Lowcountry

Philadelphia InquirerJune 29, 2012 

Guess what's back in the real estate vocabulary for many neighborhoods and communities?

Multiple offers.

Not everywhere, and not in every price range, but for houses that are priced properly and

in the right location, it's war -- or maybe just a semipolite skirmish. In the Lowcountry, multiple

offers are becoming more common.

"Things have improved so much in the last two months. I'm really busy, and I even had three offers on one

house," said Bluffton-based Realtor Toni LaRose-Gerken, who specializes in Sun City Hilton Head.

The top advice for buyers in these situations: Unless a buyer is paying cash, an offer must be accompanied

by a preapproval letter from a lender for an amount higher than the asking price.

No seller is going to wait for a buyer to shop for a mortgage if there already are preapproved buyers in the competition. Buyers who really want a house need to take decisive action, local brokers say.

When multiple offers come in on the same day, the Realtor representing the seller usually contacts the prospective buyers' agents, asking them to submit their "best and highest offer" by a specific deadline, local Realtors say. The seller -- alone or in consultation with his or her Realtor -- reads the offers and picks one.

"Most of the time they'll take the highest one without any contingencies," said LaRose-Gerken, who works out of the Sun City Office of Re/Max Island Realty. "If someone wants the purchase of a house here to be contingent on the sale of their home in New York, that doesn't fly well."

If the prospective buyers already have a contract on their house up North and the closing date is soon, "it's a little more acceptable," she said.

Realtor Randy Smith, who specializes in oceanoriented and resort property on Hilton Head Island, said he's working with clients who soon will close on a short sale in North Forest Beach -- an oceanfront home that had multiple offers. His buyers, he said, won out because they were paying cash and had "very few contingencies."

Realtor Irene Jackiewicz of Weichert Realtors Coastal Properties said that because inventory has shrunk in certain types of properties, multiple offers in some segments of the market are becoming more common.

"I tell my buyers if there is a property that is priced right and is in good condition, make a full price offer and have your paperwork in order," she said.

IN OTHER MARKETS

Philadelphia-area agent Jeff Block of Prudential Fox & Roach said he has four multiple-offer listings already sold and several more under agreement of sale.

"The market is becoming really balanced, which is a great sign," Block said. "We had virtually no multiple offers over the past several years, since we were in a solid

buyers' market."

But multiple offers don't necessarily mean a home sells for at or over full asking price, he said, adding that while sellers have become more realistic about what the market will bear for their homes, buyers know they are buying into a market with generally lower pricing and "simply ridiculous interest rates."

While multiple offers can be a gauge of an improving market, they are as angst-ridden as any transaction, and often result in hurt feelings or even worse.

"It's often tricky to finesse this kind of situation and keep everyone happy, or at least feeling like they were treated fairly -- and I think 'treated fairly' is the most important thing here," said Ruth Feldman, an agent with Weichert Realtor McCarthy Associates in northwest Philadelphia.

If Feldman is representing the buyer, and she knows there already is an offer or offers submitted for the property, "then I counsel my buyer to make his or her first offer the highest and best one," she said.

"At least that way if they should lose the bidding war, their disappointment is mitigated by the fact that they tried their best," she added.

Staff writer Carol Weir contributed to this report.

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